Proper 6 – Year A – June 18, 2017
Sarah laughed! She laughed. Right there, in the Bible, there is talk about laughter. Now in the past few months we have dealt with some pretty heavy theological concepts – (Resurrection, Pentecost, the nature of the Trinity). And certainly our world has been full of heavy news – terrorism, Congressional shootings, and scalding political rhetoric.
But for today the tone changes and we focus on love and laughter and joy, all of which are God-inspired and God-desired.
Today’s story is full of laughter and humor and joy. The first laughter we hear about is the kind of laughter we have when we are in disbelief; when something seems so impossible that we have to laugh at the outrageousness of it.
Three unidentified men have come to visit Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is sitting outside the tent, dealing with these guests and Sarah is inside the tent - preparing the meal, staying away from sight, and ... listening at the tent flap to what was happening in the men’s conversation.
The men asked Abraham “Where is your wife, Sarah?” Abraham replies that she is in the tent.
And then one of the men said something unexpected: “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”
Sarah, whose hearing was pretty good, laughed to herself when she heard this and said: “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” In other words, “Are you kidding me?”
At this point the speaker is finally identified as the Lord. He asked Abraham:
“Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ ” And then he asked this powerful question: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
Well at this point Sarah seems embarrassed that the Lord had read what was in her heart, so she denied it, saying “I did not laugh”;
and the Lord responded, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
Now that is really a very funny exchange – it reminds me of dialogue from some old Marx brothers’ shows,
God says: “You laughed”
Sarah says: “No I didn’t!”
God says: “Yes, you did””
Some commentators chastise Sarah for that laughter saying that it reflected faithlessness. But I ask you, have there not been times when you have laughed at something that seemed so far-fetched, so out of the realm of possibility, that you just had to laugh at the very idea?
And besides Sarah wasn’t the only one who laughed at that news; Abraham had laughed at that exact same news too, only earlier.
In the chapter before this, God had promised that if Abraham would keep his covenant with God, that he would have a son to “multiply your descendants.”
At the time Abraham was 99 years old, and in response to God’s claim of a son, he “threw himself down on his face; and laughed and said to himself, ‘Can a son be born to a man who is 100 years old? Can Sarah bear a son when she is ninety?’” So Abraham, the one considered the Righteous One in our scriptural history, laughed too.
But obviously their laughter did not offend God; because the Lord only gently rebuked Sarah, kind of like a father, ”Sarah, you can’t deny it”,
and then, with loving purpose, He fulfilled that promise.
After her cherished son was born, Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
Sarah laughed then, from the depths of her heart; her joy, her love, her laughter is contagious and we all laugh in delight with her. What could be more wonderful – a treasured child, a gift of love from God.
Laughter and delight and love poured out.
And speaking of laughter and humor, do you all recall what they named their son? Isaac. Isaac. This is the best part I think; this is where God really shows His sense of humor:
That name – Isaac – in Hebrew means “He laughs”. Honest. “He laughs.”
And do you know who gave him that name? God. In the chapter where he had promised Abraham a son, and Abraham had laughed,
God had pronounced, “Your wife Sarah shall bear you a son and you shall call him Isaac.”
That Son of Laughter, Isaac, would always remind Sarah and Abraham of their disbelief,
but also Isaac would be a testament to the fact that nothing is too wonderful for our God.
Their laughter of disbelief had turned into the laughter of pure joy. It was, as one writer put it,
“(t)he laughter of knowing that God is good. The laughter of the wonder for all that God does.”
And through scripture we learn that our God not only loves, loves powerfully, but God also laughs.
Now sometimes God laughs in derision like Abraham and Sarah did.
In Psalm 2, God declares that when “the kings of the earth take their stand, getting ready to take on the Anointed one, the “God enthroned in heaven laughs”. God just laughs at puffed up dictators and oligarchs, and would-be autocrats because he knows how their sad story will end. Psalm 2 (2, 4)
But God’s humor is not usually directed against things. Instead God’s laughter and delight usually bubbles up from His love of us and His creation.
In fact laughter seems to be the very essence of our God, according to a poem written by Meister Eckhart, a Medieval German theologian.
Do you want to know
what goes on in the core of the Trinity?
I will tell you.
In the core of the Trinity
the Father laughs
and gives birth to the Son.
The Son laughs back at the Father
and gives birth to the Spirit.
The whole Trinity laughs
and gives birth to us. 
It is a joy-filled, laughter-filled dance of love.
We know that God loves powerfully and constantly.
And up, out of that wellspring of love bubbles laughter and delight.
Do not take my word for it, hear what the prophet Zephaniah says, “God will take great delight in you … he will rejoice over you with singing.” Think of that, God being so entranced by you, so in love with you that he bursts into song…God taking great joy in you and me. (Zephaniah 3:17)
And our God delights in his creation too; you can almost hear the laughter and delight in Psalm 104 when the Psalmist writes, “...and there is that Leviathan (think “sea monster”) that You, O God, made for the sport of it,” “for the sport of it.”
In other words, God made that scaly, long-tailed sea-monster just to delight in it, to laugh about it. Our God - taking the time to create just for the love and laughter in it.
But mostly God loves us and wants us to be filled in with good things. In Job, we are told that “God will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.” Job 8:21
And in similar words, we hear the Psalmist say 126,
Then our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy.
The Lord fills our mouths with laughter. He rejoices over us and wants to bless us in every way possible.
Paul reminds us of this when he says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
This is not only because that is the desire of God for us, but also because God knows that when our lives are filled with laughter and joy, our faith lives are likely to be more fruitful.
Mother Teresa once wrote: “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” It stands to reason that we, as the laborers Jesus spoke of in our gospel today, are more likely persuade folks to follow the Lord when we greet them with love and laughter than if we approach them with a pruny, Puritan-like attitude.
Now I am not a Pollyanna; trust me. I know that we each experience hardships, worries, losses, deaths. That is partially what being a human is about - at some point we will know sorrow and hardship and death.
But I also know what the Lord assures us in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:21
Jesus promises us that even though we may suffer sorrow at times, that God will renew us, reweave us, makes us whole,
With, and by means of, his love and joy and laughter.
Our psalm this morning asks the question “How shall I repay the Lord?” I think Sarah answered that question for us -
she repaid the Lord when she laughed in delight at the birth of Isaac and invited us to laugh with her.
Sarah laughed with joy.
Her laughter was like a prayer of gratitude.
And I think we can begin to repay our Lord
when we delight in His creation,
when we lovingly care for one another and the stranger,
when our hearts are filled with joy and laughter,
and when we remember the verse from Psalm 118 which says:
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Amen